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Constantine With Leprosy, In John Lydgate's 'The Fall Of Princes'

Constantine With Leprosy, In John Lydgate's 'The Fall Of Princes'

Medium: Ink, pigments and gold on vellum

Date: 1455

Shelfmark: Harley MS 1766

Item number: f.196r

Length: 30

Width: 20.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

John Lydgate (c.1370-c.1450) was probably born at Lidgate in Suffolk; he became a monk of Bury St. Edmunds aged 15, a priest in 1397, and during a long life was a remarkably prolific writer of English verse. 'The Fall of Princes' is a translation into English, made in about 1438/9, of a French work of c.1409, which was itself a translation of a mid 14th-century work in Latin by an Italian, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75). It concerns men who rise to great power, and their subsequent downfall: a warning to readers of the fickle nature of fate. The 4th-century emperor Constantine, having achieved military victory is said to have begun to worship idols, and been struck down with leprosy; he was subsequently cured by St. Silvester. In this image he wears his imperial crown, and his body is covered with sores.

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